I had waited until after the meeting to approach the chair
and ask to be on the committee.
Thirty years ago,
his response wasn’t checked to be politically correct,
when he snapped back,
“We don’t want a woman on this committee,
especially not one who’s half-black.”

Funny that the half-black part is what had infuriated me the most…
I guess because it was the first time
anyone had disparagingly labeled my diverse Sicilian heritage.
But the ultimate sting came with the realization
that no amount of hard work or brilliance on my part
could ever change the fact that I am
a woman
of Sicilian ancestry.

It happened again today,
when I learned a committee had met that I had assumed I was part of,
but they hadn’t invited me!
I politely asked the chair to please include me in the future.
She made a face,
mumbled that I would have to talk to her associate,
dismissing my request like brushing an ant off her sleeve.
If it’s not sexism or racism this time…
have my years at the mast earned me yet another excuse for exclusion?
– ageism? elitism?
or was she just protecting her turf?

How could you accuse me of not being a team player,
when I’m still never invited to the game?
If there is a “Z” list, my name is on it.
I’m not blaming you for being oblivious to the fury your accusation triggered in me,
because you haven’t spent a lifetime in meetings,
where your suggestions are summarily dismissed,
only to watch them be proposed by someone else,
someone who is male,
or young,
or well connected.
Someone who would be praised and promoted for his brilliance.
Someone who would fire me,
or not fund me,
or proposition me.
Someone who would use me to succeed,
then trivialize my contribution.

In a world that values people by their financial success,
how could you know the frustration of ending up impoverished
after a lifetime of relentless effort,
only to be repeatedly stymied by things you cannot change:
your gender, your ancestry, your lack of academic credentials,
What I have achieved, without those initials after my name should have value.

Why should I care that you say you are disappointed
that I would want to claim ownership of my concept?
How could you know I grew up with the insidious counsel
that it is unladylike to blow my own horn?
…What it felt like to quietly follow the unspoken rules,
doing the bidding of a boss
doing it better than anyone else,
then standing in the shadows watching him get the kudos.

You couldn’t possibly understand
what it means,
not to be a man,
having the brains and vision to lead,
and the humility to roll up your sleeves,
to do the messy work, the arduous work, the tedious work
whatever it takes to make the dream real,
To buy into the adage of persistence being omnipotent,
if you give it everything you’ve got…
Believe in yourself… that power positive thinking…
until you are positive of only this:
the deck is stacked!

Sexism, like racism,
is something you may think we have overcome.
But that’s only an illusion,
to make racists and misogynists feel smug
when they’re accusing women and people of color
of making excuses for their failure to succeed.
Behind the curtain of equality achieved,
looms an ugly reality,
that I would be branded a whiner to whimper.

True, life isn’t fair,
so you have to look out for yourself,
and if I have to blow my own horn,
I damn well will!
And you’ll just have to deal with it.

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